Thursday, October 20, 2011

On Liturgy and Honesty

We went to church on Sunday for the first time in a very very long time; to an Anglican church with a socially-relevant and historically-grounded sermon and worship that as a mix of Coldplay and the Common Book of Prayers. I have never been a big fan of liturgy – I find that the words can easily be rattled off without sincerity or thought, and that when I do stop to think about what I am mumbling with the rest of the congregation, I am often unable to actually proclaim the words with the heart-felt conviction that I feel like a communal profession deserves.

But, while I still stayed silent for parts of the recitation of the Creed on Sunday, I had a realization: there may be space for people like me (that’d be people who call themselves Christian, but don’t profess many of the tenets that other Christians deem “fundamental”) in the liturgical practices of a Church like the Anglican Church. You see, when a more evangelical church says the Apostle’s Creed, or includes it in their sources of doctrine, I generally assume that they are interpreting it literally – that this is the starting point for their theological framework. And, in this context, standing up and saying it along with the group when I don’t believe everything it says “we believe” feels false and uncomfortable.

But in a church that is based on liturgy, it feels like the intention of the community in saying those words changes: the Creed becomes a placemarker in the tradition that the church comes from. Saying it is as much about situating the congregation in a historical and global community, rather than as a literal affirmation of everything it says. And I feel like there might be some room for me to be there, honestly; that I can read it as metaphor and history and poetry, and it’s ok if I don’t read it as fact. I don’t think I’ll ever escape from the feeling of impersonality that comes from a heavily liturgical service; and maybe I am reading into this completely wrong, and the Anglicans read the Creed because they each individually are professing the belief it espouses, but I think that in some ways, a more “traditional” service structure may actually open up more freedom to participate honestly while staying true to what I believe.

Monday, October 17, 2011

in which the author descends into a completely post-modern world-view...

I recently finished reading A Strange Stirring by Stephanie Coontz, a book which is essentially a “biography” of The Feminine Mystique, the seminal book on housewife dissatisfaction that came out in the 1960s. It was a fascinating read, but what really captured me the most is how so much of what is considered the “traditional” North American family, and what many people (a large number of whom share the same faith tradition as me …) are fighting to preserve, is really quite a recent phenomenon. In fact, Coontz suggests that it’s normal for societies to go through waves of conservatism after times of upheaval – in other words, what’s exceptional about the post-war suburban nuclear family dream is that it lasted for so long. I was struck by the same theme when we read Karen Armstrong’s The Case for God last winter – this time with regard to theology and Biblical interpretation. Armstrong also highlighted how what is often termed “traditional” is actually relatively recent tradition, and we can quite easily look through history to the time before that tradition took root. Which has got me thinking about the importance of knowing our history: it’s so easy to assume that the bounds of one’s own experience encompass the world as it is, because we all live in our own point of view, but stepping out of your own (historical or cultural) place can quickly reveal that there’s a whole world of points of view out there, and you only live in one of them.

Monday, September 12, 2011

where i was when ...

Having just been called out for claiming, 3 months ago, that I was going to fill the handbasket with goodies once more, and then sitting back and doing nothing but reading other peoples' blogs in the intervening time, I am really and truly back. A very hot summer has come and gone, in which I saw my triumphant return to the stage (Question Period the Musical at the Ottawa Fringe), spent a full week at the cottage truly doing nothing except for reading, swimming and hanging out with family, and had an amazing two-week trip to California with PJ. And now, it's the fall which, after years of programming, is still "back to school" time in my mind, even though it's been 5 years now since I actually WENT back to school after Labour Day.

The year between my undergrad and law school was the first fall that I didn't go back to school. It was also September 2001. As yesterday was the 10th anniversary of 9/11, I've been thinking about where I was. I was at a farm belonging to family friends. The daughters of the family were also done their degrees and between travel and work, so we hung around a fair amount that fall while we were all back in the homeland. They had 5 or so Scottish lads visiting - these guys had been in New York the week before, and were spending some time experiencing the famous hospitality at the farm. I'd stayed over after a dinner party the night before, crashing on the couch. So, I watched the second tower fall live on TV with some of my oldest friends, and a group of guys who I'd known for a few days.

After sitting in stunned silence for a few hours, and after the guys had all managed to call home to a) reassured their parents that it was last week that they were in NY, and that they were safe in rural Canada; and b) be reassured that family members who worked in European capitals were ok, we went to the lake and went canoeing and swimming. It was warm and quiet, the motor-boaters and week-long vacationers having left with the close of the Labour Day weekend. And we felt like we shouldn't be getting on with life, enjoying ourselves, when we were pretty sure that the world had just changed. But we also knew that you can't not get on with your life. And so, when I remember that day, I have sympathy for the young New Yorkers who were photographed sitting in the sun as the towers burned in the background, and have been accused of being callous for looking normal while they sat and processed what had happened. Because we, who were more removed from the tragedy, drove away from the TV altogether down a country road and out onto the lake, even though we didn't yet know all that had happened, but knew the world had changed.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Zombie Blog Returns from the Dead

I thought this blog was dead. I told people who asked if I was still blogging that I had slipped out of it. That I had found myself thinking about issues, but not in a way that leant itself to blogging. Or I was only thinking about issues tied up in my work, which I am less comfortable blogging about. Or that I wasn’t thinking about issues at all. Whichever way, Hell in a Handbasket was dead. If I blogged again, it would be something different, something in a new home. That I would move to wordpress and reinvent myself as a food blogger, or something. But recently, I’ve felt the blogginess coming back. The rants and explorations that have made Hell in a Handbasket seem to be percolating once again. So, what the Hell – I just might resurrect this zombie blog, and see if it can say anything coherent without eating my brains.